Tag Archives: gaslighting
Narcissists all love to control their victims. Many use two tactics simultaneously to get what they want. Those tactics are nit picking & changing goals.
These evil tactics work very well together to make a victim feel not good enough, & willing to work harder & harder to please the narcissist. As an example, at the time my ex husband & I were together, I felt I was morbidly obese & disgusting. Looking back though at old pictures now, I see I was a normal weight. Not skinny, not fat.. normal. However, he constantly hinted that I needed to lose weight so I could look better. Our marriage was a nightmare, & I thought that if I just could lose weight, I could fix it. I know, this was very naive on my part but I was young & unaware of the kind of person I was dealing with at that time.
Anyway I lost weight.. 23 pounds to be precise. I fit into a size 6 comfortably & some size 4’s as well. Considering my frame & height, I was too thin, I think, but it still wasn’t good enough for my ex.
During my weight loss journey, my ex did not complement me or encourage me. The closest thing he said to a complement was, “Well your butt finally looks better.” He also made me feel like I needed to lose more & more weight in order to please him. As thin as I was at that time, I still felt that I was disgustingly fat & like if I didn’t lose some more weight, my marriage would fail because of it.
My ex husband’s nitpicking & changing the goals in that area gave me a very skewed view of not only my appearance which damaged my already fragile self esteem, but also my responsibility in our failing marriage. I felt as if I was completely to blame for the problems in our marriage, even though now I know I was not. This is basically the goal of a narcissist who employs nitpicking & changing the rules. If the narcissist can make their victim feel badly about themselves, they are easy to control, which of course is a great thing to a narcissist. And, if the narcissist can convince the victim that something is their fault, they will work hard to please the narcissist. The victim also will be so focused on trying to please the narcissist, they won’t realize that the narcissist is to blame, so the narcissist gets away with their abusive tactics. And, this builds up a tolerance to abuse in a victim, so a narcissist can do more awful things & get away with them.
No matter the relationship, all narcissists seem to use nitpicking & changing the goals as a way to abuse their victims. Parents use this tactic on their children even into adulthood, spouses use it, co workers & friends use it as well. It is wise to learn to recognize this abusive tactic, understand it & find ways to cope with it.
Recognizing it is pretty easy. When someone is excessively critical, even when said with feigned concern, & if the person also changes what they want from you often, these are big red flags.
You also need to keep in mind that this is not about you, it’s about the narcissist’s need to abuse & control you. The things they criticize aren’t necessarily flaws. Probably they are things you’re insecure about, so the narcissist uses your insecurities as a means to abuse you.
As for ways to cope, recognizing what is happening & remembering what the reasoning behind it is will help you tremendously. Stick to your boundaries, too. If you give a narcissist an inch, they’ll take 100 miles, so don’t give them what they want. Also, I firmly believe in praying, asking God to give you creative ideas to deal with a narcissist is always a very good move. He will give you effective ideas that you never would’ve thought of on your own. Let Him help you!
One passive/aggressive tactic narcissists use to abuse victims is to be sure they know they aren’t good enough.
A common way narcissists do this is to make sure you know that no matter how good you are at something, someone is better than you at it. Let’s say you own your own interior designing business & the narcissist knows this. Most people would be impressed by that. Narcissists are too, just not when it comes to YOUR business. They may say something like, “Did you know that Sally owns her own interior designing firm? She is so smart & talented! She works so hard! Never takes a day off!”
While the words aren’t said, the message is still clear: “Sally has real talent! You aren’t as hard working, talented or business savvy as she is! You aren’t worthy of my admiration like Sally is!”
Another variation on this is when a narcissist says, “Interior decorating is so easy. Seems like anyone can do it. Anyone can put up a sign saying they’re an interior designer these days. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay someone to do something so easy…” Again, the words may not be said but the message is crystal clear – “You’re nothing special. Any idiot can do what you do.”
A different tactic is used mostly by narcissistic spouses but also by parents. They never tell you how attractive you are & they know you’re insecure about your appearance, but they freely complement others. As an example, a narcissistic husband may fuss over a famous model’s beautiful figure to his pregnant wife who is about to give birth to their child, & who feels fat. Parents can do this too, though. My mother never told me I was pretty as a child. In fact she used to brag that once she told me she thought I was “kinda pretty”, even though I don’t remember that happening. Yet, when I was young, she’d fuss over how pretty other little girls were. When I would be upset, she’d tell me I was wrong & shouldn’t feel as I did.
There are some big bonuses for narcissists in treating victims this way. If you confront him or her, the narcissist knows their comment hurt you. If you’re angry, all the better for the narcissist, because the narcissist can use your anger to prove how unreasonable & crazy you are. They’ll say things like, “Don’t be so sensitive!” “I don’t know how you got that out of what I said!” “You read too much into things!” If you’re unaware of what is happening, you easily can feel like the narcissist is right. You’re crazy, oversensitive, etc. Believing those lies will make you feel shame & be easier for the narcissist to control. The narcissist may even use it as an excuse to discard you.
These tactics are attempts for narcissists to diminish anyone they envy, compete with or see as a threat in some way. They knock a person down a bit by making them feel unimportant, bringing them closer to the narcissists level which also builds up the narcissist.
If the narcissist in your life treats you this way, remember what they are doing. They’re using a passive/aggressive tactic to try to destroy your self esteem so they can control you. Chances are, they don’t even mean the cruel things they say. They’re actually envious of you for being prettier, more talented, more successful or whatever than they think they are. Rather than try to better themselves, narcissists would rather tear someone else down. So if the narcissist in your life treats you this way, don’t forget that. What they say isn’t what they truly feel. What they feel is the exact opposite.
Setting you up in a no win situation is one of many weapons in the narcissist’s arsenal. They put you in a situation where you can’t win so they have a reason to be angry with or hurt by you, or to make you do what they want.
In my late teens, my mother’s abuse was at its peak. She would scream at me so often, it was just a way of life for me then. She didn’t have any valid reason to scream at me, so she would often make up reasons or put me in a situation where I would be wrong no matter what. One example that comes to mind took place not long after I met my now ex husband. Upon seeing him for the first time, my mother hated him & told me to stay away from him. I liked him so I sneaked around behind her back at work & school to see him. (The rest of the time I was with my mother). He & I worked together, & often closed the place. I wasn’t allowed to have a car, so my mother took me to & from work & school. When my ex & I walked out from work together, my mother screamed at me as soon as I got into the car for spending time with him. When I walked out first on the next evening we worked together, she screamed at me again for him “hiding from her”, “not having the guts to face her, “& “being a coward”. Then on the next evening we shared a shift, he left first as I hung back. Then she screamed at me for him “being so cocky”, leaving work before me. There were only three ways to handle the situation & she got mad at every single one of them. She created the perfect no win situation. When I tried talking to her about it, she screamed at me for not knowing what she expected of me. It was devastating to me & made me feel crazy. It didn’t matter to her it hurt me though- as long as she felt better, that’s all that mattered. That’s how narcissists are- so long as they benefit, it doesn’t matter who they hurt or destroy.
Unfortunately, I’ve never found a really good way to deal with it. That’s why it’s called a “no win” situation, I suppose. All I have learned is not to engage in the behavior. Let the narcissist have the temper tantrum but you remain calm. Showing narcissists emotions only gives them supply so you refuse to do that! Do NOT apologize if you weren’t wrong. Change the topic. Leave the room or hang up the phone.
Always remember, this is NOT normal behavior! The person who puts another in a no win situation is not normal. There is something very wrong with that person, not you.
Many people hear the term “soulmate” & assume it means someone romantically connected perfectly to another person. This couple is assumed to be perfectly compatible in every way – comparable intellectually & sexually, sharing the same perspectives, feelings, likes & dislikes, & always agreeing with each other. The perfect fairy tale love, in other words. It also is a common belief that people have only one soulmate in their lifetime.
I don’t believe that this definition of soulmates is accurate at all. I believe it’s actually better & more varied.
For one thing, I believe there are different types of soulmates, & they aren’t always romantic. My best friend is my soulmate. My husband sometimes finds it hard to believe just how much she & I have in common. My husband is also my soulmate. Both relationships are very different & neither relationship is perfect.
My husband & my best friend share much in common with me. We all think remarkably similarly & share similar views on all kinds of things. All of us are Christians. We all grew up in similarly abusive, dysfunctional environments. Yet at the same time, we’re all very unique individuals. Each of us works in a very different line of work. My husband is pretty interested in politics while my best friend & I have no interest in politics. I love to crochet & knit while my husband & best friend have zero interest in either. My best friend has no interest in cars while my husband & I both are pretty car obsessed, in particular with old classics.
While I consider my husband & best friend to be my soul mates, you can see obviously we aren’t perfect fits for each other. Sometimes we even disagree with each other. The cool part is that it’s totally fine! We all respect each other’s differences. We’re also willing to learn about the things that interest each other. And, although we don’t always agree about everything, we have enough respect for each other to be perfectly fine with that. We don’t have to agree about every single thing.
They both bring a great deal to my life, & I hope I return the favor to them. They challenge me to be a better person. There is no doubt that both are committed to the relationship with me. I know if we have an argument, neither will abandon me.
The reason I’m mentioning soulmates is because many narcissists will try to convince their romantic partner that they are the partner’s perfect soulmate. No one could be as good for them as the narcissist, or love them as the narcissist does, at least according to the narcissist. In fact, my narcissistic ex husband once told me that no one would ever love me like he did. To his credit, he was right – no one else has “loved” me as he did & that is a fact for which I am VERY grateful! They also want their partner to think no one could understand them as well as the narcissist does, which is partly why they are the perfect soulmate to the partner.
If a romantic partner ever claims to be your soulmate, I want to encourage you to consider this person very well. Does he or she show narcissistic tendencies? Did this person mention the topic of being your soulmate early in the relationship? When this person mentions the soulmate topic, does he or she only talk about how good they are for you, not that you’re also good for them? Does this person use the phrase my ex used, that no one would love you like he or she loves you? If so, these are some serious narcissistic red flags! I would strongly encourage you to end the relationship! Functional people don’t feel the need to convince their partner of their greatness for the partner. My husband & best friend have never done this. In fact, both tell me I’m good for them & that they appreciate me.
Functional people also don’t try to make a relationship very serious too early. They realize it takes time to get to know each other enough to decide if this relationship has the potential to be serious. Talking about being soulmates or discussing marriage early in the relationship isn’t normal! My ex husband proposed to me only a bit under 3 months after we met.
Just remember, Dear Reader, that although it’s flattering if someone claims to be your soulmate, that also can be a red flag. It can be the warning sign of a narcissist.
One of the favorite tools of narcissists is saying something that may seem innocuous but in truth, it’s designed to cause hurt or anger. Years ago, my late mother in-law asked something me in front of my husband… “Is your car running ok?” Sounds innocent. Also, every time we went to her home, we were in my husband’s car so how was she to know if it was running or not? The truth was she hated my car. She told me many times I should get rid of it. Her “innocent” comment was one more way to say she thought my car was a piece of junk. Later, when I said something to my husband, he defended his mother. He never heard her tell me how she hated my car, & as I said, when we visited her, we took his car. He saw no evidence that what I said was true.
This is a very effective tactic! What narcissists say may sound helpful or nice, & may even have a victim believing that for a second, but it’s manipulation. It’s also said as it is to cause confusion, so when you confront the narcissist, they can deny any wrong doing. As an added bonus, narcissists like witnesses, so they can validate that the narcissist didn’t mean any harm & you’re wrong, as in the situation with my mother in-law. This provides the narcissist with their precious narcissistic supply. And, if you stay silent, this also provides the narcissist with supply, because they see they have control over you.
The coup de gras is when the narcissist can make you apologize for your valid feelings. Unfortunately this happens often, because such devious techniques can be very difficult to spot.
There are different ways narcissist use this technique. Some are listed below so you can learn to spot this manipulation as soon as it begins.
- Mentioning an ex frequently. Narcissists love to say “my ex is still in love with me”, that he or she called or they ran into each other somewhere. They also may mention good qualities about this ex. This is to make you jealous & insecure, by letting you know the narcissist has other, better options. If you say anything, the narcissist says you’re insecure, & have no need to worry. The reassurance doesn’t feel so reassuring, however.
- Narcissists like to flirt, but not necessarily with their partner. A narcissistic significant other has no trouble flirting with other people in front of their mate. When confronted, they say things like they’re just being friendly, you need to stop being so insecure & the flirting doesn’t mean anything since you are the one he or she comes home to. Again, the reassurance isn’t very reassuring!
- Narcissistic parents “brag” about their children to others. Narcissistic parents love to share stories about their children that make the parent look good. If they were able to fix something for their child or rescue them after doing something not very wise, those stories will be shared. When their child is upset, they tell their child they have nothing to be upset about because the parent was bragging about them. How can that possibly be upsetting?
- Being condescending. Narcissists believe themselves to be of superior intellect, so when their victim is in need of advice, they offer their so called wisdom freely. They mention they’re doing it to help or they have your best interest at heart, so your accusations offend them. You should be grateful they care enough to help you!
- Talking about things with other people in front of you that you know nothing about. If you & the narcissist are with other people, they may discuss stories that you know nothing about or have inside jokes. The narcissist wants you to feel left out. If you mention it, the narcissist says he or she knew you wouldn’t want to go which is why you were left out, or you’d be bored by the silly inside jokes. You then feel ashamed of yourself for your very valid feelings.
You can learn to recognize these subtle tactics with practice. When you do, remind yourself of what is happening, & act accordingly. Don’t show the narcissist that you’re hurt or angry. Pretend not to notice their manipulation. This will deprive them of narcissistic supply, & most likely they’ll stop using that tactic on you.
I’ve noticed so many people are quick to judge victims of abuse for tolerating abuse. The nature of the relationship doesn’t seem to matter, the same things are said to victims. These judgmental people say things like, “Well *I* certainly wouldn’t have put up with being treated like that!”, “Just go no contact!” or, “Why didn’t you leave sooner?”
This post is for those people who are quick to judge, & need a lesson on the reality of what it’s like to be abused.
Unless a person has been subjected to the effects of daily, intense gaslighting, they truly don’t know what they would do in that situation, & have no right to judge a situation they can’t understand.
Abusers use gaslighting to convince their victims that they can’t make it in life without their abuser. Abusers convince their victims that they are so stupid & incapable that they need the abuser to help them navigate through life. Not even the most highly intelligent people are immune to this.
They also convince their victims that no one cares about them other than the abuser. People only talk to them because they are trying to be nice, not because they really care, abusers say. They also create doubts in victims’ minds about their loved ones by saying things like, “She isn’t really a good friend to you.” “He doesn’t care about you yanno.” When an abuser says such things with conviction, & a victim hears such things often enough, they believe them no matter how much evidence to the contrary they may see.
Abusers also are very good at convincing their victims that if they would try just a little harder, the abuser would threat the victim better. Watch a young child with an abusive parent, & you will see this clearly. The meaner the parent is, the harder the child works to please that parent. Adults aren’t immune to this behavior though. During my first marriage, I did this with my ex husband. The problem with this behavior is whatever the victim does is never good enough. Abusers are notorious for changing what they say they want, raising that bar a bit higher once the victim does what they originally said they wanted, or denying ever wanting that thing their victim just did. A person unaware of this manipulative & abusive behavior will keep trying to please their abuser, which leads to utter frustration in the victim & satisfaction in the abuser for having such control over the victim.
There’s also the fact that most people don’t want to end relationships with those closest to them, & abusers are usually those closest to the victim. Deciding to end a romantic relationship is a big deal, especially when abuse is involved because the victim is going to feel like a failure or stupid for falling for someone abusive. If the abusive relationship is a parent/child relationship, that is incredibly hard to end too. Who can feel completely comfortable telling their parents they never want to see them again?!
Lastly, many abusers prevent their victims from leaving. They often take the victim’s money & ruin that person’s credit, making it impossible for the victim to leave. They make the victim completely financially dependent on them. They threaten to take the couple’s kids away so the victim never will see them again. Some have been known to lock their victims in their home, making them a prisoner. And, still others threaten to kill either the victim, their pets, their children, their friends or family if the victim leaves.
After considering all of this.. can you honestly still wonder why victims tolerated the abuse as long as they did?
One of the most infuriating things I dealt with at the hands of my narcissistic mother when her abuse was at its worst was when she’d say, “My sources say you were seen doing *fill in the blank* today.” Or, “I was told that you did *fill in the blank*.” I would ask her who said these things & she would tell me it wasn’t my business, it didn’t matter or it wasn’t important.
It made me feel so paranoid, angry & even betrayed. Paranoid because I wondered who would tell my mother these things that I hadn’t even done. Angry that someone would tell her things I hadn’t done & she would believe I was capable of such things. Betrayed because clearly this person knew me.. what if this was a close friend of mine? My friends at the time knew about much of the abuse… how could any of them lie to my abuser knowing what happened when she was angry with me?!
Thankfully my mother stopped this after I moved out. I honestly thought I was over it, too. That is, until the spring of 2009, when one of my cousins & I had a falling out. She had invited my husband & I for Christmas a couple of months prior, & I declined. Apparently some time after, she learned that we took my parents to visit my father’s sister about a couple of weeks before Christmas & assumed that meant I spent Christmas with our aunt. I explained that wasn’t the case at all, I wouldn’t do that to her. Her response? “Why are you lying to me? My sources told me you spent Christmas with her.” That was a big trigger for me. All the old anger I’d felt at my mother came flooding back to the surface. Apparently I wasn’t over it, & with good reason.
So many narcissists use this type of manipulation. They accuse their victims of outrageous behavior, & say “my sources said you did it” or, “I was told you were seen doing that.” When you try to find out who their mysterious sources are, they say it doesn’t matter, it’s not your business or you don’t need to know. If you’ve been in this position, you know just how infuriating it is. It’s bad enough being accused of something awful you didn’t do, but not to know who is saying you’ve done this makes it even worse.
You know something though? The reason they refuse to divulge their “source” is because that person doesn’t even exist! The accusations came from the narcissist’s warped mind, not another person. The reason the narcissist is saying they were told you did this thing is to make you insecure, to make you think others are talking about you & ultimately to gain control over you. It can make you feel as if everyone is against you, & no one would believe you if you tell the truth about the abuse. I certainly felt that way with my mother. It makes you lose hope & afraid of disappointing people close to you. If the narcissist is especially good at this, you may come to believe that you did what the narcissist said you did. This makes you easy for the narcissist to control.
If you end up in this position with a narcissist, remember what they are doing. They don’t have “sources”. They are simply making up lies in order to gain control over you. Don’t get caught up in defending yourself to them, because they’ll only use that to prove how mentally unbalanced you are. And question everything they say. Even say something like, “Really? What did I do then?! I want to know!” If a narcissist wants to act so foolish, then they deserve to be called out on their behavior & to know you know they’re lying.
I love memes. In fact, I saved many over the years. Some inspire me with quoting Scripture. Others inspire because of the beautiful pictures. And then there are ones like this one that was popular on Facebook for a while. It said, “It is very sad when members of the same family do not talk to each other. The children suffer for the adult ego. Cousins miss the wonderful opportunity to be together, & all due to a bruised adult ego. Stop getting offended. Reunite with your family members. One day your imaginary conflict will all come to an end…with or without you. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Type yes if you agree.”
That one about made me gag.
I will admit, there are families where someone is being a petty jerk & not speaking to other family members. It does happen, but I don’t believe it’s all that common.
What is much more common is when someone in a family is abusive, & their victim gets fed up. They sever ties with that abuser to protect themselves & sometimes also their spouse & children. The abuser & their devoted flying monkeys harass the victim, drag their name through the mud & blindly support the abuser. Meanwhile the victim is left behind in a state of shock & deeply hurt by the betrayal of not only the abuser but the family members who once said they loved the victim. I guess that truth doesn’t make such a “nice”, wholesome sounding meme though, does it?
If I sound angry about this, it’s because I am. Not only for myself since I have been in this position but for the countless others who have been as well.
It’s not right to abuse someone in the first place. There is no reason to abuse anyone. The only thing that makes this even worse is when people know about the abuse, but treat the abuser with kindness & the victim with disdain. Treating someone who has the courage to open up about being abused is one of the cruelest things a person can do to another in my opinion. It takes a lot of courage to go against the abuser’s wishes in any way, especially their desire to keep their acts secret, because once it’s out, you can’t take it back. To treat someone in this position as if they’re lying, making a big deal about nothing, acting like a spoiled brat, trivialize their feelings or experiences or claim they want to hear nothing about it is absolutely disgraceful & disgusting. Anyone who does this should be utterly ashamed of their actions, but sadly that is rare.
People who act this way are people who are fans of the meme I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Those people obviously have issues. Since I’m related to many of that type of person & have seen their sick behavior first hand, I think I can say that without any doubt. Thanks to these people, I have learned a few things about this kind of person.
People who treat victims as they do often have abuse in their past. They don’t have the guts to face that fact, so they deny it. They put on a fake happy face & tell stories of their happy family. Their denial runs deep so they don’t have to face the pain. Any perceived threat to it & they attack. This includes silencing other victims who are willing to speak out, even when those victims are their own family.
There are others who know the narcissist & refuse to believe the truth. They believe the “nice guy/girl” act & will also attack any threat to their denial of the truth.
People like this are just as toxic as the narcissist who abused you in the first place. And sadly, they’re out there creating memes like this & hurting & manipulating God only knows how many people who see it. It’s utterly disgusting! You really can’t believe everything you read, because sometimes it’s nothing more than garbage written by toxic people.
Narcissists clearly are experts in the area of controlling. One lesser known tactic they use is called coercive control. It is most commonly known to happen in romantic relationships, but it also can happen in parent/child relationships.
Coercive control doesn’t always involve physical violence, yet victims wonder if they don’t obey the narcissist, will it turn violent one day? Fear is a great weapon, & those who use coercive control are well aware of that fact. Often without so much as touching their victim, they instill a deep fear in them.
There are other signs of coercive control that people need to be aware of abusers using.
Intimidation is a big red flag. Towards the end of my first marriage, my ex was trying to intimidate me by punching things other than me. After, he would tell me how lucky I was he was hitting the walls instead of me. Other forms of intimidation can include showing weapons, blocking you from leaving the room or standing over you in a way as to make themselves look much bigger than you.
“Minor” violent acts. I hate to use the word minor with violent acts because it sounds like it’s trivializing violence. That isn’t my intention. What I mean is acts like pushing, holding you in place or even pinching hard. These are so called minor violent acts.
Using threats to control. Threatening to leave you, to commit suicide or hurt your child or pet in order to get what they want fall into the category of coercive control.
Micromanaging a victim. When someone controls things like how you dress or how you wash the dishes, it makes you easy to control because in time, you feel as if you must ask your partner for permission to do everything. Some parents continue treating their adult child as if they were young children in need of their guidance well into adulthood. This is known as infantilization.
Financial abuse. An abusive partner will keep their mate in the relationship by destroying their credit, spending all of their paychecks or refusing them all access to the couple’s finances.
Isolation is another form of coercive control. It’s no secret that abusers isolate their victims. Isolation makes victims easy to control by limiting the information & support they can receive from outside sources. Abusers may claim their victims’ friends or family aren’t good for them as one way to isolate their victims.
Sex is a very commonly used method of coercive control. Abusers may violently rape their victims of course, but that isn’t always the case. Many use shame, saying things like, “Any other woman in the world would do this one little thing for me…” or, “If you loved me, you would do this for me.” They also may be very good lovers at first to get you hooked on sex with them, then in time, they suddenly lose interest in having sex with you. When you practically beg them is when they have power over you. They use the opportunity to tell you what they want from you that will make them regain interest in sex.
When things like this happen, it’s not easy to identify these behaviors as abusive at first. Abusers get worse gradually, to build a victim’s tolerance to abuse. This is probably why so many victims stay… it happened so gradually, they didn’t even realize it was happening. By the time they did, they felt unable to escape.
If this describes you or someone you know, please get out NOW!!! These behaviors are all signs of a potentially violent person! Protect yourself & stay safe! xoxo
Cognitive dissonance describes the very uncomfortable feeling of learning that something you believed was true is indeed not true. Imagine living your life always believing the sky was green. It never crossed your mind thinking it was anything but green. Suddenly one day, someone tells you the sky is blue. You know the person who told you it is blue wouldn’t lie to you. You also see for yourself that it’s blue. You now have to accept this new fact that that the sky is blue. That awkward feeling of struggling to accept the new reality is cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a very common problem among those who have survived narcissistic abuse. Narcissists lie about pretty much everything, especially to their victims. They have no problem lying & do it constantly. Anything to get them what they want. Because of this, victims often struggle with cognitive dissonance when they learn the truth. I’ve been there many times.
Most recently, I’ve experienced cognitive dissonance upon learning after my mother’s death that my parents loved me, in some way (just not a normal, healthy way). As a child, I just assumed they did, because that’s what children do. As I got older, I didn’t think they did due to their abusive ways, & worked hard to accept that painful truth. Then after my mother’s death, in the process of clearing out the house, I found they had saved cards & things I’d given them, school projects & other things that they wouldn’t have saved if they didn’t love me. Talk about difficult to accept & rectify in my mind!
Experiencing cognitive dissonance can be very difficult & painful. Learning some truths can be downright excruciating. There is also the fact of learning that someone you love lied to you. That broken trust can be very painful. There is also the subject matter of the lie. That can bring up sadness, anger, hurt & all kinds of unpleasant emotions.
When facing this distressing & challenging situation. as always I recommend beginning with prayer. Ask God for whatever you need, such as help in getting through this, strength, courage.
Consider the evidence facing you, too. Is it clearly the truth? If someone has told you something that is causing this cognitive dissonance, is that person trustworthy?
Always remember that there is no shame in believing something wrong. We all have done this! The only problem would be if you were unwilling to be open to new perspectives & beliefs.
There is also no shame in that you trusted someone who lied to you. This is something every single person has done at some point. It happens! it doesn’t mean you are foolish or naive or anything else. It means you’re human!
Also think about this: the person who is willing to challenge their beliefs, to learn & grow, is brave & intelligent. Many people prefer to stay in their own little box. They are content with not changing, learning or growing. The person they were five years ago is the same person they are now & will be in five years. Actually, if you think about it… that describes flying monkeys. They accept something as truth (such as the narcissist being a good person) & refuse to change their minds even when faced with evidence to the contrary, like when the narcissist shows their abusive ways. You aren’t like that, though! You’re willing to face truth no matter how painful it is.
Humility is another thing that shows when you are dealing with cognitive dissonance. Being willing to change your perspective shows that you realize you don’t know everything. That is a very good quality!
Don’t let your experience with cognitive dissonance make you feel badly about yourself. Everyone has experienced it at some point.
You will survive this painful time with your sanity in tact, even though it may not feel like it at the time. xoxo
Narcissists love attention, & many must be the focal point of everyone’s attention at all times. Overt narcissists are naturally more brazen in how they command attention than their covert counterparts, but covert narcissists love attention too. There are countless things they can do to draw all attention to themselves, but this post addresses some of the more commonly used tactics.
Narcissists have no manners whatsoever. Add that in with their insatiable desire to have everyone’s attention, & you have a person who WILL interrupt whoever is talking. When a person interrupts, they naturally become the center of attention, so it’s a useful & very commonly used tactic for narcissists.
Overt narcissists can be loud in how they interrupt people. They usually will talk over people. Covert narcissists, as usual, are more subtle. They will try to have the final word in any conversation. There is also a trick my covertly narcissistic father used. As I would start to speak, he’d act like he was going to speak. Naturally, I’d apologize & let him talk. Eventually I realized that was his goal. He didn’t want to hear what I had to say. He wanted to shut me up so he could talk, & knowing I hate bad manners, I’d be polite & let him talk.
And, if a narcissist is hard of hearing, interrupting becomes easier yet. Many have what I call selective hearing. While they may indeed have diminished hearing, they also use the excuse of not hearing a person when it fits them. If they want someone else to stop talking so they can talk, they can just start talking & claim they didn’t hear the other person talking.
Another way narcissists gain attention is by turning a conversation back to themselves. After all, if people are talking about something that isn’t the narcissist, that means the narcissist isn’t the center of attention. They will spin the conversation around to themselves in such a way that no one will have a clue how that happened.
Narcissists also gain attention by telling stories about you to other people, preferably in a group of which you also are a part. Not good stories like how you got that big promotion at work or were your high school valedictorian, only stories that embarrass you. This tactic is especially popular with narcissistic parents, but spouses also may use it, especially if the narcissist is older than the victim. Telling embarrassing stories makes a person feel shamed & foolish, which makes a person easier to control, so that is an added bonus to the attention the stories gain. And, the narcissist may spin the story so it looks like he or she rescued you somehow.
If the narcissist has some sort of pain like back pain, arthritis, or even a short term problem such as a broken leg, the problem will be used to his or her advantage. You can expect this person to claim unbearable pain when not receiving all attention. A similar scenario can happen if the narcissist has an illness or disease. If this narcissist isn’t the center of attention, suddenly he or she will claim symptoms are flaring up, or maybe that he or she must lay down or go home immediately. In either scenario, most people will focus on the narcissist & try to help, returning him or her to the center of attention.
Shock value is another favorite way narcissists gain attention. My mother literally crashed my late father in-law’s funeral in 2018 to get her precious attention. She drove to the graveside as the funeral was just starting & wouldn’t get out of her car. People were shocked, & staring. It worked as she wanted. Other shock value tactics may include things like burping or passing gas loudly, or saying something totally outrageous such as gory details of how someone was murdered. Shock value naturally stuns people, & they focus all attention on the narcissist, as was the goal.
When the narcissist in your life behaves this way, deprive them of that attention. If they interrupt you, talk over them or talk to someone else. If they change the topic back to themselves, change it back to the original topic. If they use embarrassing stories, pain or shock value, ignore them. Depriving a narcissist of attention means that action won’t be used again because it doesn’t work.
Most of us who have survived narcissistic abuse know at least some about projection. Projection is when a narcissist accuses a victim of something that the victim doesn’t do, but the narcissist does. As one example, my narcissistic mother accused me of lying more times than I can count. Although in all fairness I lied some to her, I didn’t lie to her often, & when I did, it was out of self preservation. She, however, has lied to & about me more times than I can count.
Projection is a very effective weapon for a narcissist. It allows the narcissist to get upset about the flaw they are accusing another person of while simultaneously accepting no responsibility whatsoever for it or making appropriate changes in their behavior. It also means that unless the victim is aware of the phenomenon of projection, the victim will listen to the narcissist & make whatever changes they need to in order to please the narcissist. This means plenty of narcissistic supply to any narcissist. Controlling a victim? Turning a situation around so the victim feels responsible while absolving oneself of responsibility at the same time?! This is a big narcissistic supply win!
Victims need to be aware of projection so not only do they refuse to accept this burden & blame any longer, but also so the narcissist in their life is deprived of getting their narcissistic supply. Depriving a narcissist of supply is VERY important to help you maintain your sanity while in a relationship with any narcissist.
Another reason to know about projection is because it can help you to learn about the narcissist. Remember what projection is- a narcissist accusing a victim of things that they are doing, not the victim. A narcissistic wife who accuses her husband of cheating is most likely cheating or at the very least, has chosen someone she wants to have an affair with. The narcissistic boss who accuses an employee of stealing from the company probably has stolen quite a bit. A narcissistic parent who accuses their adult child of lying is most likely a liar.
If you pay attention to what the narcissist in your life accuses you of doing, you can learn what they are up to. This knowledge can help you to figure out ways to deal with the narcissist because now you know just what you’re dealing with.
The next time the narcissist in your life accuses you of some outrageous behavior, Dear Reader, I urge you to listen to it. Not because they are right, but because it can help you to understand what they are up to.
So many people seem to think that because an abusive person was pleasant with them, it means that person wasn’t abusive. Nothing could be further from the truth! Abusers are very selective in the specific types of people they wish to abuse. This means not everyone fits into the abusive person’s agenda.
Abusers aim for people who have experienced abuse in their past. Most people, including victims, will assume the victim is the problem if they have had multiple abusive relationships, because he or she is the common denominator in these awful relationships. It makes sense to some degree to think that way. However, it doesn’t mean that is always the truth.
Abusers also aim for empathetic people with a kind heart because they are much more willing to excuse abuse. These people will understand that their abuser has suffered trauma in some way, so they tell themselves that their abuser is only acting out of dysfunction. This leads them to tolerate a great deal of abuse that they normally wouldn’t be willing to tolerate. I did this with my parents & my late mother in-law. I can tell you that it was a huge mistake which led to me being hurt a great deal.
Or, people with a kind heart may want to try to “fix” this “broken” person as a way to help them. Although the fact that they want to help people is quite admirable, this line of thinking can set a person up for abusive people to take advantage of & hurt them.
Insecure people are also a good target for abusive people, because abusers realize that insecure people are very pliable. It won’t take a great deal of work for a narcissist to change someone who is insecure into whatever it is a narcissist wants.
If you aren’t insecure though, chances are good that your self confidence was seen as a challenge to your abuser. While narcissists do like insecure victims, confident ones also are a good thing in their mind. Confident victims are a bit of a challenge. If they can destroy a confident person, then they see themselves as very powerful, which provides a great deal of narcissistic supply.
In order to avoid these awful situations, I have some suggestions.
First, as always I recommend prayer. Turn to God & He will help you. Talk to Him about whatever it is you feel & ask Him to help you. Ask Him to identify easily the red flags & to give you creative ideas to cope with this situation.
If there is something about a person that makes you uncomfortable, even if all outward signs look good, trust that the uncomfortable feeling is there for a reason. Watch the person’s actions closely for either good or bad signs & it won’t take you long before you recognize whether this person is abusive or not.
Also, always remember your boundaries & do NOT compromise them! What are you comfortable with or uncomfortable with? What are you willing to do or not willing to do? You have every right to feel as you do & to enforce those boundaries however you feel is appropriate.
Keep learning, growing & getting healthier. The more you do that, the less abusive people will be attracted to you. Abusers of all types size people up quickly, & if they see right away that you’re emotionally & mentally healthy, they will be more inclined to leave you alone. As an added bonus, the healthier you are, the more other healthy, functional people will be attracted to you.
Lastly, never, ever forget that even if someone does abuse you, that doesn’t mean it’s your fault. Ultimately, the choice to abuse someone belongs squarely on the shoulders of the abuser, not the victim. There is nothing any victim can do to force someone to abuse them.
There is no way to avoid abusive people entirely simply because they are everywhere. However, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of being abused.
Denial is an unhealthy coping mechanism in which people refuse to acknowledge that something is happening in order to make themselves more comfortable & to avoid facing the ugly truth. There are different facets of denial & those with narcissistic parents are well aware of many of them.
One form of denial is when narcissists deny doing anything wrong. They may justify their actions by blaming their victims or deny altogether that they did anything wrong at all. Either way, they refuse to take any responsibility for their actions & deny that their actions are hurting another person.
Those close to a narcissist also often deny the abuse is happening. If a victim reaches out to others, to their family in particular, chances are excellent that they will be met with invalidating & even shaming statements. They may also be accused of lying about the narcissist.
Such forms of denial are destructive to victims. They teach the victim that she can’t trust her own perceptions, feelings, thoughts & even sanity. Denial also teaches victims that their feelings & thoughts are unworthy, that they shouldn’t bother people with them. That easily can lead to the destruction of a victim’s self esteem. In turn, this can lead to a person tolerating all manners of abuse, because they feel unworthy to defend themselves or they simply don’t believe that their feelings or perceptions of a situation are accurate.
Although coping with such awful experiences & the aftermath is hard, it can be done successfully.
You’ll need to depend on God. A lot. He knows the truth of the situation, so you can count on Him to show you what the truth is whenever you have any doubts. Never hesitate to ask Him to help you, because He will be glad to do so!
Keeping a journal is very helpful too. Write about the traumatic events as soon as you can after they happen, & be sure to include dates & lots of details. If later someone says, “That never happened!” you can go back & see that yes, it DID happen! If those things didn’t happen, you wouldn’t have written about them!
I also recommend writing your story. Naturally it’s your choice whether or not to publish it or any part of it, but at the very least, write it out. Seeing your story in writing will help validate your experiences by making them seem more real. Only remembering things isn’t as validating, I think, because you can convince yourself you just don’t remember things right. That is especially easy to do when a narcissist is telling you that you’re remembering things all wrong. Writing your story also can help you to see just what the narcissist is capable of by reminding you of things she already has done, & that can help you to deal with her. Seeing your story in writing is also an excellent reminder never to underestimate her. Writing your story is a very difficult step, but it is truly worth the difficulties.
When either the narcissist or others invalidate you, another good step to take is to remind yourself what they are doing. They don’t want to face the ugly truth that this person is incredibly abusive. They are trying to shut you up only to make themselves more comfortable. The good news is that this means their actions have nothing to do with you. The bad news is that knowing that doesn’t always make their actions not hurt. This knowledge can take some of the sting out of their actions though, & anything that helps to do that is a good thing in my book.
Finding the courage to set boundaries on being abused & even to end a toxic relationship isn’t easy. It takes a tremendous amount of courage & strength to do such things. One of the few things that is even more difficult is to tell other people your story. Part of the reason for this is the victim blaming & shaming that is so common in society.
Many people simply don’t want to hear anything negative. They are so obscenely positive it’s just ridiculous. If something is less than positive, they don’t want to hear it, & will shut that person down quickly when they can.
Even more common is those who have been abused themselves, yet refuse to face their pain. When they see someone facing their pain & conquering it, it makes them feel uncomfortable for two reasons. First, it reminds them of what they are trying so hard to forget. Second, it makes them feel inferior for not doing the same thing.
There are also those who enable abusers. For whatever bizarre reasons, they pity abusers & hate victims instead of the other way around. They have no tolerance for anyone who dares to speak out against abuse. They label these people troublemakers, liars, attention seekers, drama queens & more.
Often, people like this are easy to spot. They are the loud ones who call victims names, harass them & even send them vicious hate emails, texts & voicemails. The one plus about these people is you can have no doubt about what kind of awful person you’re dealing with when they act this way. The problem is when people are much more subtle in the way they try to shame & shut down victims. Below are some warning signs that someone is not safe to tell your story to.
If someone refers to your relationship as one where both you & your abuser are at fault for its demise, this person isn’t safe. We all know that no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. However, when a person is abusive, it’s not an innocent mistake. It’s a deliberate choice to harm another person. Any functional person should recognize that!
All victims need understanding & empathy. Even if a person hasn’t been in an abusive relationship, anyone should be able to grasp that it’s not a pleasant experience & feel badly that anyone experienced that. Someone who can’t clearly lacks empathy & is a toxic person.
Avoid anyone who trivializes the abuse. One of my aunts once referred to the abuse I experienced as, “childhood hurts.” That truly hurt me & it destroyed our relationship. Luckily, it happened well into my healing journey. If it happens to someone new to their healing, an invalidating comment like this can be devastating!
Those who make excuses for abusers should be avoided. People who do this are as toxic as the abuser! They invalidate the victim’s pain & suffering, & even make the victim feel ashamed for not being understanding, or being too sensitive & such. The truth is there is NO good reason to abuse, period.
People who judge a person’s healing are toxic. Everyone heals differently & at a different pace. Many toxic people try to rush a victim along with comments like, “You need to let this go.” “It’s been how many months since you left him?” “You told me this already.” This does no good! To process & heal from abuse, it takes a lot of time, energy & sometimes even telling the same story over & over in an attempt to make some sense of it. A person who doesn’t understand that is toxic.
Anyone who uses a person’s faith as a reason they should tolerate abuse is incredibly toxic & should be avoided at all costs. While God didn’t promise this life would be easy, He never said anywhere in the Bible that tolerating abuse is good & holy. Yet, there are many who think it is the “good Christian” thing to do, tolerating abuse. I’m no theologian, but I do recognize that tolerating & enabling abuse is not only wrong, it’s not God’s will.
If you come across these kinds of people, remember, not everyone needs to know your story. Refuse to discuss it with them. You don’t need to be abused even more than you already have been!
So many people who were abused wonder the same thing: Why was I abused? They wonder what they did wrong or could have done to make their abuser abuse them. It’s certainly understandable to think this way. After all, narcissist never accept responsibility for their actions & also make certain their victims know they are to blame for all the problems in the relationship.
So why were you abused? The answer to these questions is this…
You were abused only because your abuser made the terrible, dysfunctional decision to abuse you.
You did nothing wrong. You aren’t a bad person. You didn’t allow this person to abuse you. You didn’t make anyone abuse you. You’re not annoying, stupid, a loser, a pushover, codependent, etc. There is absolutely nothing about you or that you could do to make anyone abuse you. Abusers are the only ones responsible for the abuse they inflict.
I know it can be hard sometimes wondering why this person who was supposed to love you inflicted so much pain on you. If you’ve been in more than one abusive relationship, it’s also natural to assume you’re the problem. After all, you’re the common denominator in the relationships so you must be the problem, right? Wrong.
I used to think these same things. It took some time, but the more I learned about Narcissistic Personality Disorder & the more I healed, the more I came to realize that the monsters who abused me did so because something is VERY wrong with them, not me.
Something else to keep in mind about narcissistic abusers. Narcissistic parents work hard from the day their child is born to mold that child into whatever it is they want the child to be. In fact, many only have children to make themselves little “mini mes” to use so they can procure narcissistic supply.
As for narcissistic romantic partners, they’re not any better. They choose partners for utterly selfish reasons. They choose people who they think can make them look good somehow, or that they can change into something they’re not. Narcissists do love having that power over people to make them do their will.
In both the case of narcissistic parents & partners, the victim has nothing to do with why they were abused. Children are convenient & easily pliable especially by their parents. Romantic partners are chosen because they have good qualities that the narcissist thinks will make them look good. Keeping this in mind, how can anyone think that the abuse they endured was their fault!? It’s impossible!
Dear Reader, I hope you realize now that you have absolutely NO responsibility in the abuse you endured. Your abuser is the one who is responsible, not you. Please let go of any thinking that tells you it’s all your fault, because it is NOT your fault! Nothing you said or did could have convinced the narcissist in your life to stop abusing you & to treat you right.
Narcissists seem to have a “gift” for making their victims feel that they are the problem in the relationship, that they are the ones who are dysfunctional, not the narcissist. Often, they are so talented at doing this, a victim is completely baffled as to how it happened. This post will explain some ways narcissists accomplish this.
Narcissists love gaslighting. Gaslighting is the systematic tearing down of a person’s sanity. Narcissists will deny having done something, deny the incident happened as it did, find a way to blame the victim for the problem & more. Constant gaslighting tears down a person’s ability to trust their own memories, feelings, perceptions & yes, even sanity.
Narcissists either imply or say outright that their victims are crazy. My mother used to tell me often, “You need help.” It was accompanied by a pitying expression. She was implying I was in dire need of psychological help, yet, never got it for me. Why? Because she knew I was sane. I, however, had doubts for most of my life about my sanity. After all, no one would say such a thing to their own child if it wasn’t true, I thought.
Narcissists project their faults onto their victims. Narcissists view others through a very distorted lens. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their mind and their conscience are corrupted.” (AMP) One aspect of this is accusing their victims of the very things that they themselves do, even when there is no evidence of the victim doing anything of the sort. They often accuse their victims with such certainty, the victim may believe the accusations are true. There is one good thing about projection. It can be useful in learning what the narcissist is really up to. The narcissistic husband who claims his wife is unfaithful is most likely having an affair. The narcissistic mother who accuses her child of lying is a lair. Listening to what the narcissist accuses you of can give you a great deal of insight into what they are truly like.
Narcissists love the silent treatment as a weapon. In my late teens, my mother & I argued constantly. One of her favorite ways to hurt me was to give me the silent treatment. I would beg her to tell me what was wrong, & she either refused to answer or would say, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you!” At the time, either scenario was devastating. Saying nothing showed me I wasn’t worth her time or energy to speak to. Saying she wouldn’t tell me if I didn’t know what was wrong made me feel crazy, stupid & ashamed for not knowing what egregious sin I had committed.
Narcissists lack self awareness. Rather than question that maybe, just maybe, they might be the problem in their relationships, they blame all relationship woes on other people. If you aren’t aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it can be quite easy to believe that the narcissist is right, & you are at fault for their problems or the problems in your relationship.
Narcissists are provokers. In other words, narcissists will do whatever it takes to push their victims to the point of rage so they can use that rage to prove to the victim that the victim is crazy, abusive, irrational or anything else. Since the narcissist stays calm while the victim is clearly upset, it’s easy for the victim to believe what the narcissist says at this point.
Narcissists will say that they forgive you, even when you have done nothing wrong. By saying this, they are implying that you are the problem in this situation, & they are very good & kind people to forgive you for the awful things you have done.
Learning about these tactics can help you to protect your mental health, & not fall for the narcissist’s lies that you & you alone are the dysfunctional one in the relationship.
One very popular weapon in the narcissistic arsenal is guilt. Covert narcissists in particular are very fond of using guilt as a means of control. It’s understandable it’s such a common weapon considering how very effective guilt can be. It also is unfair & even cruel.
So how can you cope when your narcissistic parent uses guilt trips?
First, pray. Ask God for wisdom & discernment so you understand when guilt is being used on you & ways to cope with it.
You also need to recognize what is a guilt trip & what isn’t. You need to know when someone is saying something to manipulate you or to help you to change & improve yourself. Statements like, “It hurt my feelings when you said/did….” can help you. Statements that simply make you feel guilty like, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?” however aren’t to help you, but to control you.
You also need to be aware of the fact narcissistic supply is at the root of every single thing a narcissist does. Guilt trips are a part of that. Being able to control someone via guilt provides supply as does seeing that person upset about the guilt. The more you allow the guilt trips to work on you, the more the narcissist will use them on you. The best thing you can do is to pretend not to notice the guilt at all when you’re in the narcissist’s presence. Later, when away from her, vent to your heart’s content of course, but when in her presence or even on the phone with her, pretend you didn’t notice a thing. If she realizes guilt trips don’t work on you, she’ll stop using them since she sees they aren’t effective.
Don’t justify yourself or your actions. If you do, you’re only making yourself look guilty, which could mean the narcissist will get meaner. Probably my most successful interaction with my late covert narcissist mother in-law involved guilt from her. She wanted me to do something for her one day but I had plans. Granted, I could’ve changed them, but I didn’t want to. Not for someone who hated me & treated me so poorly. She kept trying to find out what my plans were. She said things like, “You sure must have something important to do if you won’t do this for me.” “I guess you’re doing something for your parents since you won’t help me…” Rather than explain my plans (which weren’t her business!), I ignored her. Since I didn’t tell her, she got mad, but couldn’t be mad at me without looking foolish in front of her husband & mine. By not justifying my actions, I protected my privacy, avoided more nastiness from her & she never tried to guilt trip me again. In fact, I found the entire thing funny because her behavior was so ridiculous. Much better to laugh than to be angry or hurt!
Remember, if you have done something wrong, you should feel some guilt since it will help you to improve your behavior. However, if you haven’t done anything wrong, then do NOT allow the guilt trip to work on you.